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2021 MLB Draft Preview Position Rankings: First Base

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After starting at catcher earlier this week, we move to first base to examine the 2021 MLB Draft.

Notre Dame v North Carolina
Notre Dame slugger Niko Kavadas
Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

After we looked at catcher over the weekend, the Atlanta Braves 2021 MLB Draft Preview Position Rankings move to first base today.

This is a very weak crop of first basemen, and pretty much every one has significant question marks attached to them. Of course first base is a bit of a last resort position to move guys to, so guys you see listed elsewhere could end up having to move here down the road, strengthening the class.

While the Braves could use some first base depth in the farm system, especially considering Bryce Ball’s stock has dropped a bit and we haven’t seen Mahki Backstrom yet this year, I don’t think they should or will target anyone specific at the position and would only take one in the first few rounds if that player ended up being the best available prospect.

We will take a look at the Top 15 first basemen in the class with the first 10 getting short writeups and the last 5 being put into a list.

  1. Alex Binelas, Louisville

Coming into the year Alex Binelas was a potential Top 5-10 pick as a third baseman, but he started the season very slow and he already got moved over to first by the Cardinals this spring. Add that to an injury that basically wiped out his entire shortened 2020 season, and he's now two years removed from his big 2019 freshman season. The positive here is he did at least finish strong to make his final stat line look better, but still he is most likely a first baseman with a questionable hit tool and a bunch of swing and miss to go with his plus plus power. Note I did say most likely a first baseman because he is athletic enough to at least consider trying out in left field where there would be less pressure on his bat.

2. Brandon Boissiere, Arizona

One guy who moved up a lot this spring is Brandon Boissiere from Arizona. One of the key pieces to the Wildcats season, Boissiere is more of a hit over power type, though he did see his power improve this spring. Some will say that Boissiere has a chance to play in the outfield, but he is most likely a first base only profile due to his below average running and arm tools.

3. Kyle Manzardo, Washington State

I may be the low man on Kyle Manzardo because he doesn’t quite profile as the ideal first baseman to me and with his athleticism he is a first base only prospect. The reason I don’t see him as an ideal first base prospect is because he is definitely more of a hit over power type who has an above average to plus hit tool and will take plenty of walks. He reminds me of former Cubs first baseman Mark Grace offensively, a guy who hit for very good average and high on base percentage but in his best four year power stretch only hit 59 homers. Obviously the game has changed since then and I would expect Manzardo to hit closer to 20 homers than the 15 Grace hit during that time, but it is a similar offensive profile.

4. JT Schwartz, UCLA

JT Schwartz is another player similar to Manzardo, a hit over power first base prospect- but he’s also got more upside than Manzardo as well as more questions. No one doubts that Schwartz will hit for average and get on base at a high clip, but his power is more below average presently. The good news there is the fact Schwartz has some projection to grow into more power, though like Manzardo the swing is built more for contact so it’s hard to see him ever reaching plus in game power. Another reason he has more upside is that he’s a decent athlete and has a chance to get looks in left or even third base as opposed to being a first base only guy. Of course the other red flag is he comes with a fairly lengthy injury history for a player his age.

5. Niko Kavadas, Notre Dame

Niko Kavadas is one of the top power bats in the nation and had some big moments during Notre Dame’s NCAA Tournament run. Kavadas has plus plus power and knows how to draw walks. The negative with him is that not only does he have serious hit tool questions, but there is some thought he may end up needing to move to DH, and he’s already nearly 23 years old since he was eligible in last year’s draft. It’s a tough guy to fully buy in on, but if he can hit enough to showcase that plus plus power then nothing else really matters.

6. Ivan Melendez, Texas

Ivan Melendez came from the JUCO ranks in time tor this season and has been a force in the Longhorns lineup this spring. Like most sluggers he comes with significant swing and miss as well as the fact that he’s likely a right handed hitting and throwing first baseman- something many teams knock as there just haven’t been many of those types to succeed in a few years. Also my use of the word likely is because teams just haven’t gotten many looks at him defensively since he came from JUCO this year and spent the bulk of the year playing DH since Texas has another draftable first baseman.

7. Jacob Walsh, Nevada HS

Jacob Walsh is the first player we’ve covered so far in the rankings from a very strong Las Vegas prep class. He checks off a few boxes the Braves like- not only is he a two way guy as a left handed pitcher, but he was also a football player throughout his high school career. That means there is more to be gained as he commits to just baseball and just hitting, and to add on to the potential he still has some projection on his 6’4”, 215 frame. Walsh brings plus power however has questions about the hit tool and will be limited to just first base defensively.

8. Blake Burke, California HS

Blake Burks is in the conversation for the top power bat in the prep draft class, having 70 grade power. Obviously if you can’t tell by the ranking, having plus plus power and being ranked this low means hit tool questions are present with Burke. It is important to remember though that he is just barely over 18, putting him on the younger side for this prep class, and he’s enough of an athlete that he may not have to stay at first defensively.

9. Alex Toral, Miami

If it feels like Alex Toral has been around forever, it’s because he has. He was a big prospect in high school but got to Miami, and was a real candidate to get picked last year but didn’t. Nothing has changed here, he’s still got massive plus plus power and he’s still got a ton of swing and miss. Similar to teammate Adrian Del Castillo(covered at catcher), this multi-year producer really struggled by his normal standards in 2021 and only added to the questions around his hit tool and the swing and miss in his game. There’s serious power to work with, but every year it feels less and less likely that he maximizes it in the pros.

10. Austin Murr, NC State

Senior sign candidate Austin Murr has a bit of a different tool set than most of these other first basemen. While he has above average raw power, his swing is geared more to line drive contact than it is power. He’s also a guy who gets on base a lot, even though he doesn’t take many walks. A team could take a chance they can tweak his swing to get more of his power into games and do it at a discounted dollar amount.

The Next 5

11.Dominic Keegan, Vanderbilt

12.Wes Clarke, South Carolina

13.Tyler Miller, Auburn

14.Ruben Ibarra, San Jose State

15.Jacob Teter, Florida Southern